Thursday 22 February 2018

Doctors 'can treat' severely anorexic teenager refusing help

Mr Justice Henry Abbott made the orders for treatment. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Justice Henry Abbott made the orders for treatment. Photo: Tom Burke

Tim Healy

Doctors can administer life-saving treatment to a young woman in an advanced state of malnutrition due to anorexia nervosa after she refused consent to treatment, a judge ruled.

The 18-year-old remains seriously ill in intensive care and will die of malnutrition unless she gets the treatment, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said.

Her body weight is about 40kg with an extremely low body mass index, her teeth are falling out and, in line with the classic symptoms of severe anorexia, she has demonstrated no insight into the seriousness of her condition, he noted.

He was told the woman had been living on tea and cigarettes for some three months.

While she had been involved with adolescent mental health services, she was discharged from those services this month, the court was told. Her family GP was very concerned about her and referred her to a hospital considered to have expertise in dealing with anorexia.

When her mother brought her to that hospital on Friday, she was immediately admitted and assessed and, after she refused to consent to treatment, the HSE sought court orders permitting that treatment be administered.

The orders were made by Mr Justice Henry Abbott at an emergency court sitting on Saturday evening under the court's inherent jurisdiction and pending an application to have her made a ward of court.

The case was returned to Mr Justice Kelly when he was asked by Maireád McKenna BL, for the HSE, to continue the treatment orders.

The situation remains "critical", counsel said. The woman is lightly sedated, is on refeeding treatment and is stable in intensive care but is likely to have to remain there for weeks.

Mr Justice Abbott had also appointed a guardian to represent the woman's interests who has visited her in hospital, the court heard.

Mark Dunne BL, for the guardian, supported the orders. The woman has little insight into her condition and had asked to leave hospital today, he said.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said the evidence indicated this was an appropriate case for wardship and he would direct the woman's capacity be assessed by a court medical visitor. The woman may also have to be moved to the UK for specialist treatment, he added.

Irish Independent

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